"Och aye." "Nae bother." "Ye dinna ken."
Readers of Scottish historical novels can't avoid coming across Scottish accents - whether they like them or not.
A well-balanced accent gives readers the experience of 'hearing' the characters, their speech a sign of heritage, upbringing and culture. Sometimes, different accents are used to denote regional differences. This is more in line with the reality of the day, I believe, but quite difficult to achieve. Modern Scots still have different dialects, east from west and north from south. What's 'ye' for some, is 'yoo' for others, and even the odd 'ya' appears in places.
So how does a writer get a right balance? It's a tricky one.
As a (non-Scottish) resident in Scotland I have an issue with the over-use of dialects in fiction. Hints of a lilt are fine, but the continuous use of dialects - especially in characters from different corners of the country using the same speech - keep throwing me out of a story. However riveting the plot, I keep stopping to take a deep breath. Shame!
Language has changed over the centuries. Medieval languages used here no longer exist. Gaelic has become the language of a minority; Doric even more so. Scots has changed. Cities have their own, distinctive dialects. Shifts in population from the countryside to cities have merged dialects. You visit various corners of Scotland and get different lilts. It's fascinating. And quite complicated.
How does a writer of historical fiction get the right balance? If your readers like it, you must be on the right track. Correct? Maybe. Guess it depends where your readers live.
Perhaps it's just me. Maybe I've become a snob, living here, used to the different regional accents. I prefer a fine line.
So how much Scottish dialect should a novel contain? All characters? Some characters? Or none at all?
What do you think? :-)